ASSOCIATES (2007, November, v. 14, no. 2)


Typing with an Injury made Easy

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9

Review by
Michael D. Brooks
Saint Joseph’s University

What do you do if you sit down at your keyboard and discover that you can no longer type as well as you once did or even type at all? Well, if you’re anything like me, you’ll get upset and then weigh your options. After a few (and doubtful) attempts at learning to type with one hand, I opted to get speech recognition software.

I requested Dragon NaturallySpeaking <> version 9 standard software from Nuance <>, installed it on my computer at work, and began training the software to learn my speech patterns.

The Dragon NaturallySpeaking program comes with easy-to-install software and a noise-canceling headset.

Once you install the software and register it (you’re allowed a limited number of uses before it stops working and forces you to register), you can begin “training” it to recognize your voice and your speech patterns. The training can take from 30 to 60 minutes. But once you’ve met the minimum training time, you can begin using it. Just open up Microsoft Word and began dictating.

The nice thing about training the software is that you can continue to train it the more you use it. And you don’t have to learn a lot of convoluted commands. Each time you start Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a tips window will pop up with helpful information on using the software. I find it useful to keep this feature because it provides me with help, shortcuts, and reminders about what I can do with the application. But you’re certainly welcome to turn this feature off. There is also a DragonBar. It’s a toolbar which you can dock or allow to float on your desktop so you have access to it at all times.It’s best to use the program when you won’t be interrupted a lot and when you’re in a quiet or semi-quiet environment. You can turn the microphone on and off easily by pressing one key or you can give it a voice command to wake it up or put it to sleep. Another useful feature is its ability to work with other Windows-based applications. I use it while using Word, Excel, Firefox, e-mail, and best of all, the acquisitions module of the online cataloging system while at work. It’s not a perfect system, but is ideal if you have any kind of repetitive stress problems, focal dystonia, arthritis, or an injury that will seriously impact upon your ability to type and curtail your productivity.

The cost for the standard version is around $99 (US). A preferred version with more bells and whistles retails for around $200 (US). There is also a professional version, a legal version, and a medical version. They cost a bit more.

If the price is too steep, there is a poor man’s equivalent. There is a speech recognition engine built into the Microsoft operating system, but it’s extremely limited and not quite as reliable. You can access it by going to Control Panel and clicking on the Speech icon. However, if for any reason you are using Windows XP and you upgrade your Microsoft Office suite to the Vista operating system (they did that at St. Joseph’s University), the upgrade renders the built-in Windows XP speech engine useless.

There are just a few caveats about speech recognition software; the speech files necessary to run the software will grow and take up significant disk space and some versions of Windows are not supported. Before purchasing a copy of the software, check out the system requirements to determine if your computer meets the minimum requirements. The developers of the standard version recommend a Pentium 4 computer with a 2.4 GHz processor. A 1 GHz processor is acceptable but nothing less than that. They also recommend 1 GB of RAM and a minimum of 800 MB of hard drive space.

One last note, Dragon NaturallySpeaking is licensed for one user. You can create multiple user profiles for yourself, but anyone else wanting to use it would need to purchase their own copy.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking is certainly not the only speech recognition application on the market to help you circumvent your typing disabilities, but it’s the one I chose to try out, and so far, I like it.

First Serial Rights Only.
©2007 by Michael D. Brooks

Michael is an Acquisitions Technician at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has been a contributor to Associates since March 1998.